Several months ago, the Times published a recipe for Really Easy Duck Confit. Although I tend to err on the side of over-complicating, having never cooked duck before this struck me as a manageable intro. So, about two weeks ago my roommate/personal photographer (seriously, there would be no photos on this blog without Becca) and I trotted off to our favorite protein purveyors to pick up some duck legs. As it turned out, they were fresh out of fresh duck legs, but suggested we just get a whole duck, confit the legs and wings, and do an easy saute with the breasts. They even threw in a quart of duck fat to make life easier (and tastier).
Since the recipe promised this would be “really easy”, I stepped up to the challenge when blond-haired butcher asked if I would be butchering the duck myself. I have a sharp knife, incredible upper body strength, and a way of exuding confidence when I have no idea what I’m doing. So, several hours later, I found myself in the kitchen, knife in hand, hovering over a duck. I easily identified the legs and wings (step 1!) before slicing in. As it turns out, carving a raw duck is quite a bit different than carving a roasted chicken, but 45 minutes (so should not take that long…) later I had four severed appendages (the duck’s, not mine).
The next day, I retrieved the legs and wings from the fridge where they had been chilling in some salt ‘n peppa over night, and hooked them up with the cast iron skillet and some melted fat from our supply. The recipe called for medium-high heat for 20 minutes, but that was a little excessive for our reduced number legs. Unfortunately, I did not realize this until about 21 minutes into the project. Undaunted, I proceeded with the instructions and moved everything into the oven to finish off the confit. The result was tasty, but as you can see in the photo above, it was more southern-fried duck than a refined confit.
The confit out of the way, I moved on to the duck breasts. I dusted them with a a simple seasoning, and, once again following directions provided by the butcher, started them on low heat, skin side down. It takes a while to render out all the fat, so they were sitting there for about 20 minutes. Once I had rendered out as much fat as possible and the skin started to crisp up a little, I turned up the heat, flipped the breasts, and seared off the meat side for a couple of minutes. And I had a recipe for Really Easy Sauteed Duck Breasts. Take that, NYTimes.
All in all, it was a successful first venture into the world of water fowl. One might even say it was ducking fantastic.
Oh, and I almost forgot…
Bonus: Duck Stock – the oft-forgotten benefit of buying the whole duck instead of just the legs for the confit. I broke up the carcass a little, stuck in a stock pot, covered it with water, tossed in some salt, onions, garlic, celery, whatever was hanging around, and just let it simmer for about 6 hours. Cool, strain, and freeze. I will be making duck ramen with it later this week. Stay tuned.